Tuesday

Lemon Eucalyptus Herb Profile


Lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) has a scent similar to that of lemon verbena, lemon balm and even lemon thyme, but the fragrance is stronger and more pungent. It isn't a typical herb, though. It's actually a tree in the eucalyptus family that can grow large - very large (60 feet and sometimes taller). It's only hardy outdoors year round in zones 9 and higher.

Because it can grow big, to keep it under control many savvy herb gardeners maintain it in a pot, especially  in cooler regions. That way it can be a commuter - outside in summer, and insider in winter. Prefer a quality potting soil that drains well.

Potted Lemon Eucalyptus

There are benefits and a few drawbacks to this method of keeping lemon eucalyptus. A potted specimen that's been pruned regularly can be attractive and fragrant on a deck, patio, or even in a lanai, but it needs lots of light, so make room for it in a southern facing window and give it a grow light if you see it getting leggy. Even with the best care, though, it will only reach a practical height of seven or eight feet.

Another potential problem is that lemon eucalyptus will eventually need to have a root pruning. This is commonly known as bonsai pruning. It's a way of making the plant's system adaptable to the limited space. Top pruning alone won't work forever - but it may get you through a few seasons, though. Learning a little about bonsai trees can be fun and rewarding. I wrote an article about it a while back. You can visit it at: How Bonsai Works.

Learning bonsai techniques with a fragrant and interesting herb (tree) like lemon eucalyptus will expand your gardening horizons in a good way. Give the idea some thought.

Lemon eucalyptus grows readily from seed and shoots up fast in spring if you keep it in a sunny spot.  I have a nice seven foot specimen that hangs out in my dining room over the holidays. With proper care, a lemon eucalyptus can remain in a pot -- well, for decades.

It's used commercially in bug sprays and aromatics to fight chest congestion; it also makes a very nice ingredient in potpourri. Together with dried orange peel and cardamom seed, it's an olfactory feast you can easily make yourself.

As a specimen plant, lemon eucalyptus is a nice addition to an herb collection, too. It's an Aussie import with personality. If you give it some special care and attention, it will reward you with years of very fragrant service in bowls of potpourri and lots of gardening conversations about the dramatic properties of unique herbs.

Special Notes Caution --  Lemon eucalyptus shouldn't be ingested unless under the guidance of a medical practitioner.

The small plant in the photo was grown from seed in a single season - started in March.  By the middle of June it was four feet tall and the largest leaves were three inches long.

1 comment:

  1. The leaves if dried would probably be great in a tea if you have a sore throat, think cough drops with eucalyptus. When I lived in California and worked for the park system tons of Eucalyptus trees were around, I would dry the leaves and use them in a tea.

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